ST. LOUIS — It’s as painful as the headline sounds, Brewers fans. For the first time this postseason, Rollie Fingers’ absence hurt the Brewers.
Fingers, who has been out since Sept. 3 with a strained right forearm, was sorely missed as the bullpen collapsed late in Game 2. The Crew could have used their ace closer as Bob McClure and phenom Pete Ladd couldn’t keep the Cardinals off the board in a disastrous eighth inning.
Instead of flailing at Fingers’ forkball, the Cards waited patiently as McClure and Ladd gagged on the mound. McClure could only retire one of the three batters he faced that inning, while Ladd, who was lights out in the ALCS against the Angels, walked the first man he faced and then the next, which brought home George Hendrick with the eventual winning run.
Three walks and a single, and two of the walks were complete free passes with not one strike thrown. The most galling may have been Ladd’s four-pitch walk of Steve Braun.
Steve Braun? Who the f#ck is this guy?
This guy is a 34-year-old utility stiff who hit .274 in 62 at bats this season. Granted, he also walked 11 times to bring his OBP to .384, but make the guy put the ball in play. He hadn’t faced live pitching since Game 2 of the NLCS and he grounded out to Phil Niekro in his only postseason at bat.
But you also know what he is? A voyeur. The man makes his bones by watching. And he’s proud of it.
“I’m a hitter,” Braun told The New York Times. “I’m a professional hitter. You always want to swing the bat if you get the opportunity. [But] If I swung at pitches like he threw, I’d have been out of the big leagues years ago.”
Instead, he got a cheap RBI. It’s imperative Ladd makes Braun put it in play. Ladd has an exceptional fastball and the guy has never seen the rookie before. Braun hadn’t played in a week. Ladd has to make him do something with it other than watch it go high and wide for four straight pitches, damn it!
Apologies for the rage, but it was frustrating to watch the Crew let slip an opportunity to put the Cards in a two-game hole with the next three games at County Stadium. But a tip of the cap to Cards manager Whitey Herzog for recognizing the situation and putting a professional hitter such as Braun in the game in that situation. Then again, if the Brewers have Fingers, they’re probably not in that situation.
Crew skipper Harvey Kuenn said Fingers could have pitched, but not in that situation.
“Yes, Rollie was well enough to pitch,” Kuenn said. “And no, I didn’t consider using him. I’ve used Rollie Fingers when we’re ahead, not in tie situations.”
While it’s admirable to save Fingers to lock down a W, the ace said he probably couldn’t have gone even if Kuenn had called on him.
“I couldn’t have pitched,” Fingers told The New York Times. “I’m a little stiff from not pitching for a month, not the injury. It’s like the fifth or sixth day of spring training.”
Only it’s not. It’s baseball’s biggest stage and the Brewers fell off of it in Game 2. Don Sutton doesn’t escape retribution either. Twice the offense gave him leads (3-0 and 4-2) and twice he gave up two runs with two outs. You would expect that from a rookie pitcher, not a vet of Sutton’s stature.
Then there was the botched hit-and-run in the ninth where Robin Yount, in one of the only times this season he hasn’t come through, swung through a Bruce Sutter pitch and former Brewer Darrell Porter, who killed the Crew with a two-out double in the third, gunned down Paul Molitor, snuffing any Brewers hopes.
Game 3 is tomorrow at County Stadium. Let’s hope the Crew, who has responded well to adversity all season, responds positively once again.
How disappointed are you in the Crew’s Game 2 flop? Let us know. You can also follow our tweets at @tweetsfrom1982